We've lived in our new apartment for a few months now, but I still don't feel a connection to our kitchen the way I did to the off white formica counters, brown stained linoleum, and simple gas stove in the kitchen that was my home for the previous four years. I miss the light that would filter in on sunny afternoons, spreading itself across the table and lighting up the walls. I miss the high ceilings that made the small room feel more open and less cluttered than our new kitchen. I think what I really miss is all the time I spent in there chopping, sauteeing, kneading, mixing, washing dishes, and sitting at the the wooden table eating, writing, or staring out the window, uninterrupted.
It will take more time to feel at home in the better kept and better equipped kitchen in our new place but it will be a completely different feeling of home. I stand at the maroon counters in this space and feel a tug on my leg as Amos says "Mommy Peease" and hands me the broom so I can sweep up the black beans that have fallen out of the bowl and muffin tin and cups he has been sorting them into. I can barely cut an onion in half and start peeling off the skin before I hear him dragging the heavy wooden chair behind me so he can see what I'm doing at the counter. The oven beeps when it is done pre-heating and Amos immediately lets me know that it is hot. It's hard to find room to do dishes when he always wants to play with water in the sink.
My kitchen experiences in this apartment are almost entirely different than they were before I had a little one who wants to explore and be part of everything. As December ended and we began a new month and new year I realized how much I wanted a fresh start and renewed motivation in the kitchen. For the past few months I have been making lentil soup, beans and rice, fritattas and a few other pretty easy, pretty tasty recipes. Even though it is more challenging to find time to cook and to enjoy cooking now, I am trying to come up with ways to do this and to fill our plates with more variety, more nutrition, and better tasting food. I would love to hear your strategies for getting out of a cooking rut I want to offer some of mine:
Go to the books. Or Pinterest. Or wherever you store recipes that you haven't tried but want to. I pulled some cookbooks off the shelf in the corner of the kitchen and sat on the floor with Amos and we both flipped through pages while I searched for recipes that sounded good and would work well for our meals. I wrote the name of the recipe, page number, and cookbook on a piece of paper. I also looked back at the many pins I have on my recipes to try board and jotted down some that I haven't tried or had forgotten about.
Add new things slowly. I plan to choose a recipe from my list each week. If I enjoy making it and we enjoy eating it then I will try to make this recipe more often. I find it is easiest to incorporate new recipes gradually and it is ideal if they call for ingredients that I can use for other meals in the same week. Usually after I've made a new recipe once or twice, I go off book and make it more or less from memory.
Dig deeper. I often feel more motivated when I can spend more time on something and get involved rather than just trying to pull together a quick meal. This is definitely not always possible or desirable, but when I can take a couple of hours to carefully prepare a meal or make several things for the week in one sitting, I feel excited about cooking and more satisfied. Sometimes this happens when Amos is asleep, when Ray can hang out with him, or when I can find things that keep him occupied for longer stretches.
Start fresh. Its always nice to have a clean slate, or clean cupboards and fridge. Starting fresh can also mean stocking up on ingredients you need or adding a few new ingredients that you haven't used as often. I realized recently that I wasn't doing very well with eating breakfast since I don't always want to eat as soon as Amos does so I made a batch of granola bars to have something nutritious and easy to start the day. Starting fresh means setting yourself up for success with cooking and eating well.
I'd love to hear your tips for feeling motivated to make good food, enjoying the process and any must make recipes that you want to share. Here's to a fresh start and a chance to find renewal in the kitchen and throughout your days this year!